Women Directed More Top-Grossing Movies Than Ever In 2020, According To New Study

Women accounted for 16% of directors working on the 100 highest-grossing films last year.

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In what was certainly an unprecedented year, as the coronavirus upended various industries and lives, women set a new record in 2020 for directing more top-grossing films than ever before.

According to a new San Diego State University study from the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film (via Variety), women represented 16% of directors leading the 100 highest-grossing films in 2020. This is an increase from 12% in 2019 and 4% in 2018.

The center's director, Dr. Martha Lauzen, who has overseen the study for the last two decades, celebrated the consecutive increase in women directors over the past two years while saying more work needs to be done as "80% of the top films" are still led by men.

"The good news is that we've now seen two consecutive years of growth for women who direct," Lauzen said. "This breaks a recent historical pattern in which the numbers trend up one year and down the next. The bad news is that fully 80% of top films still do not have a woman at the helm."

While women directed more films last year than ever before, the credits reflect that up-and-down nature Lauzen alluded to. The study found that women made up 18% of editors, 12% of writers, and 3% of cinematographers on the top 100 grossing films. The number of female cinematographers did increase, but only by one percentage point. Meanwhile, the number of editors and writers dipped by five and eight percentage points, respectively. Still, women held 28% of producer and 21% of executive producer roles on the top 100 grossing films last year.

For the first time in the study's existence, Dr. Lauzen and her team at San Diego State University tracked the employment of women on films featured on the Digital Entertainment Group's "Watched at Home Top 20 Chart" from March to December 2020. In this category, women comprised 19% of all directors, writers, executive producers, producers, editors, and cinematographers working on some of the most-watched films at home. Only 10% of the directors of these films were women, six percentage points less than the top-grossing films.

The study doesn't account for movies scheduled to release in 2020 but were unceremoniously delayed due to the coronavirus' effect on the film industry. This includes titles like Chloe Zhao's The Eternals (February 12) and Cate Shortland's Black Widow (May 7), among others.

This comes around the same time as Wonder Woman 1984 director Patty Jenkins revealed an "internal war" at Warner Bros. over the way the heroine should have been portrayed in 2017's Wonder Woman. Jenkins is poised to return to direct the forthcoming third Wonder Woman entry, which is being fast-tracked following Wonder Woman 1984's impressive box office sales.

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